Portland Institute of Contemporary Art’s Building Demand initiative focused on engaging youth of colour toward mentorship and eventual creative collaboration, with the understanding that the longterm goal is a broadening of both who is producing, presenting and showing work under the PICA umbrella and, in turn, who is attending this work.
The entire course of the Building Demand research was focused on studying the possibility of engaging youth of colour, and what kind of youth engagement model might be best suited to PICA’s needs, as well as be of benefit to involved youth.
The intention was to learn how best to:
1. Cultivate interest and engagement among younger, more diverse audiences now, that would inform audience composition in the future
2. Seed direct participation beyond passive audienceship (e.g., activated audiences, or future artists/curators/producers)
3. Cultivate and support young people’s openness to new and experimental forms, cultural perspectives, and contemporary theatre
Phase one of the research (February 2016) featured meetings with a number of the organisations working with young people that PICA has recently engaged with or were interested in, including the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Caldera Arts, Catlin Gabel’s Place program, Grant High School’s AP program, the Hollywood Theatre, Know Your City, Native American Youth and Family Centre (NAYA), King School Museum of Contemporary Art, p:ear, Portland State University, Sexual Minority Youth Resource Centre (SMYRC), Young Audiences of Oregon and S.W. Washington (YAO) and Andre Middleton from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, who spoke of his efforts to create an all-ages music venue.
The second phase of the research (May 2016) was focused on two groups of questions:
1. What are the Portland-born young people of colour up to? What kind of work are they making? What are their priorities? What are their needs? What do they want from PICA?
2. What is it like to work with NAYA’s Art and Social Change students? What is it like to work with teacher Clay River? What do the students think of the work of the social practice community as experienced through the Portland State University’s Assembly Conference? What kind of experience will we have together?
The third phase (September 2016) was focused on an assessment of PICA and their TBA Festival from the perspective of a focus group comprised of two cohorts: the young producers from the independent organizations Young Gifted and Brown and another from Deep Underground and a group of teens who the young producers, in turn, invited. The adults were comprised of Mia OíConner, Bette Daniel, Janessa Narcisso, Natalie Figueroa, Anthony Byrant, Madenna Ibrihim, and Akela Jaffi. The teens came from a number of different sources: a couple of them were from a school where Natalie taught, two of them were Sam and Edom Daniel, the younger siblings of Bette from DUG, and Zavie Wilson, the daughter of a woman who ran a Dominican food truck at 15th and Alberta, which some of the women frequent. Janessa’s six-year-old son, Kai, joined one of the meetings and spent some time at the volunteer party.
The focus group offered a wide variety of insights about all aspects of TBA including: the main stage artistic programming; the behaviour of the audience at the performances; the late night programming at The Works; the group’s treatment by the PICA staff; the opening gala including the food, seating arrangement, and the entertainment; the use of alcohol and treatment of those under the age of twenty-one; and the ancillary panel discussions and presentations.
Darren wrote up the findings in a report entitled PICA for the People and the set of recommendations generated by the research have been taken up by PICA and continue to be implemented in various ways.